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Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals kicks off on Wednesday night when the New York Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lighting who are looking to join the ranks of the few NHL teams to win three consecutive Stanley Cup titles.
Only five teams have ever won the Stanley Cup three consecutive times, with the last being the New York Islanders who won four almost 40 years ago but if the Lightning hopes to accomplish such a feat, they’ll first have to defeat the Rangers in the conference finals.
Here’s a brief look at each team going into the conference final.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The New York Rangers celebrate a first period goal by Frank Vatrano #77 against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 24, 2022 in New York (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
One of “The Original Six,” the New York Rankers have won four Stanley Cups with the most recent being in 1994 when Mark Messier scored the game-winning goal late in the second period to defeat the Vancouver Canucks.
Despite making 60 playoff appearances, New York has seemingly struggled – missing the playoffs altogether three of the last four seasons and failing to advance past the qualifying round in 2020.
The Rangers last made a Stanley Cup appearance in 2014 but lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings who earned their second championship in franchise history.
But 2022 feels different.
The Rangers finished second in the Metropolitan Division, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games to advance to the second round where they bested the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3.
New York has won six straight at home and will open their series against the Lightning with two games at Madison Square Garden.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Tampa Bay Lightning center Ross Colton (79) is congratulated after scoring agains the Florida Panthers in the closing seconds of Game 2 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
Lightning rarely strikes twice, but what about three times?
Tampa Bay is on a quest to win three straight Stanley Cup titles after winning their first in 2020 when the pandemic caused the season to be placed on hold and then just 10 months later, winning their second.
Over the last 10 seasons, the Lightning has made eight playoff appearances including two conference finals and three finals – resulting in two championships.
After posting a 51-23-8 record, Tampa Bay advanced to the playoffs this season where they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 before going on to sweep the Presidents Trophy winner Flordia Panthers.
The Lightning will take on the Rangers at home but after playing their last game on May 23, a home-ice advantage might mean very little to the well-rested champions.
Brandon Hagel #38 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against Patrik Nemeth #12 of the New York Rangers during the first period at Amalie Arena on March 19. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game 1 – June 1: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET
Game 2 – June 3: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET
Game 3 – June 5: Rangers at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET
Game 4 – June 7: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET
*Game 5 – June 9: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)
*Game 6 – June 11: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)
*Game 7 -June 14: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)